The Dallas Cowboys’ recent loss to the Arizona Cardinals has raised questions about the team’s overall performance, particularly the offensive line. The defeat was unexpected, given that the Cardinals are considered a team in rebuilding mode. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the issues plaguing the Cowboys’ offensive line and how it affects the team’s offensive capabilities.
An hour before the game commenced, starting right guard Zack Martin and center Tyler Biadasz were declared inactive. Left tackle Tyron Smith was also sidelined shortly after. This left the Cowboys with only 40% of their starting offensive line, comprising T.J. Bass, Chuma Edoga, and Brock Hoffman. These three players had a combined experience of just 15 NFL starts, and their performance reflected this lack of experience.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave the trio a combined pass-blocking grade of 55. For context, the average pass-blocking grade for an offensive lineman this season is 60, and the average team pass-blocking grade through the first three weeks is approximately 62.5. These grades indicate that the Cowboys’ offensive line was notably underperforming, particularly in the passing game.
Dak Prescott, the Cowboys’ quarterback, was under pressure on 13 occasions during the game against the Cardinals. His performance under these conditions was subpar, completing only three passes for 39 yards. Prescott’s efficiency drops by an average of 3.3 yards per attempt when under pressure, one of the largest such differences among qualified NFL quarterbacks.
The Mike McCarthy Offense: Quick Ball Release
Under head coach Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys have adopted a strategy to mitigate quarterback pressure: quick ball release. Prescott’s average time to throw has been consistently lower under McCarthy compared to his predecessor, Jason Garrett. Despite this, the offensive line’s struggles have made it challenging to execute this strategy effectively.
ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric measures how often each lineman sustains his block for at least 2.5 seconds when the ball isn’t released within that timeframe. The Cowboys currently rank 25th in this metric, with a win rate below 50%. This statistic further underscores the offensive line’s inefficiency.
All three backup linemen incurred penalties during the game. Bass and Edoga were penalized for holding, while Hoffman shared some blame for a delay-of-game call. Edoga’s track record is particularly concerning, as he has incurred a penalty approximately once every 55 snaps over his five-year career.
The offensive line’s struggles have also impacted the Cowboys’ red-zone efficiency. Until the starting lineup is back to full strength, the quick game appears to be the most viable strategy to mitigate these issues.
The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line’s performance has been a significant concern, affecting the team’s overall efficiency. The absence of key starters and the inexperience of backup players have led to a decline in pass-blocking grades, increased quarterback pressure, and a rise in penalties. These issues need to be addressed promptly to improve the team’s offensive capabilities and overall performance.